By The Happy Wanderer
When the Chicago Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series for the franchise’s first championship victory in 108 years, the sentiment expressed by Cubbies fans across the world could be summed up in two words: “F*cking finally!”
That’s the reaction we had late last Friday. Almost five years after the 2014 election, APS parent company Pinnacle West fessed up to something everyone suspected had been happening: Pinnacle West admitted that it had contributed nearly $11 million to help get two candidates, Commissioners Tom Forese and Doug Little, elected to the Arizona Corporation Commission in 2014.
Here’s the backstory. In February, as soon as recently-elected Arizona Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy took office, she made it a top priority to get to the bottom of Pinnacle West’s expenditures. Commissioner Kennedy requested a list of information including “to whom the expenditure was made, the amount of the expenditure, and what the expenditure was for.” Additionally, she sought internal memoranda, records and documents that would describe how such expenditures were made. Fellow commissioners Boyd Dunn and Robert Burns also requested the information. Good for them.
Last Friday, Arizona’s largest electric utility complied and submitted hundreds of pages of documents with these divulgements.
Where do we begin?
Pinnacle West’s nefarious tactics from 2014 were Arizona’s worst kept secret. In the years since, we’ve written extensively about other ploys, from booking extravagant rooms for candidates seeking state office to promoting dishonest messages intentionally conflating the education crisis with renewable energy sources.
The latest revelations appear to be an attempt to come clean. Late last year, there was a shakeup at the top of Pinnacle West’s corporate structure and Jeff Guldner is now the heir apparent for Don Brandt as APS CEO and chairman. Let’s be clear. Brandt should have been, and should be, fired for his brutish and unethical conduct at the helm of Arizona’s largest utility. But at least the end of his professional days is near.
Maybe Mr. Guldner had a “come to Jesus” moment and recognized that spending money to influence a government body that regulates the industry your company operates in is wrong. In all likelihood, the threat of future subpoenas and public relations punches and jabs forced Pinnacle West executives to realize that it wasn’t worth it to keep dodging the truth.
We hope that Pinnacle West’s admission will set a new course not only for APS, but for other corporate actors that are contemplating shady maneuvers in order to curry favor with state regulators. No matter the short-term benefits, it just isn’t worth it. The truth will catch up with those acting unscrupulously sooner or later.